The Catastrophic Garden

March 29, 2012
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Once upon a time in bustling Drexel University, cunning, young freshman Tom stepped onto the grassy green front lawn of the Beta Fraternity house. The sky was a beautiful blue, the sun was shining, and the late summer heat warmed the campus. Tom was accepted at his dream school for his excellence in his problem solving skills in engineering. His wit and intelligence made it easy for him to become friends with anyone. Naturally, he thought that his college experience would be a bit more like home by being in a fraternity. “Hey man, we were just about to start initiation! Come on big guy! Name?” boomed the muscularly 6”6’ tall senior, Rob. “Yeah, it’s Tom,” he said as he jogged in towards the group.

The winding, earthy cobblestone road behind the fraternity house began to be surrounded by thicker and thicker forest. “To test who is man enough to be a part of Beta, we are bringing you softies to the campus legend, the Vanishing Villa. Rumor is that you step foot on the property, then BAM! You’re gone like that sweet grand slam home run I hit last year, never to return.” Rob gloated. “Quit wallowing in your ‘glory’ Rob, that didn’t even happen during the real season,” snapped another head Beta, Dan. Tom ignored the brotherly bickering as he looked around. He could tell they were getting closer to the creepy cottage. The wind changed direction to the way they were walking, as if they were being pushed closer to the house. Some of the other guys were trying to keep their cool as they noticed the change in their surroundings as well. Finally, they got to an old fashioned picket fence with vines entwined around the pickets. The guys became silent as an old wind chime filled the air with an eerie tune. “Damn, this looks like my grandma’s house! Pathetic,” said Carl, a sophomore. It was clear his outspoken behavior was all an act; an effort to prove to the guys that he was no weakling. Rob creaked open the gate. “Ladies first,” jeered Rob as everyone else shuffled in.

The small yard was overflowing with plants. Floral vines spotted with tiger lilies wrapped around the house numerous times in every nook and cranny of the little cottage. A bed of daisies was just outside the gate, beautiful tulips encircled the inside of the fence, daffodils popped up in just about every open space, and a rose bush was just peeking out from behind the house. In front of the house was a reflective pond filled with rubbery lily pads, vines, and an abundance of cattails. Naturally, with all these flowers around, the boys would have left in an instant, but there was something about the reflective pool that was almost mesmerizing. With all the guys staring at their reflections in the pond, Tom was sure that he must have been the only one to notice how the vines seemed to wrap around the opening of the gate, sealing it shut. The intoxicating aroma of the flowers must have gotten to the guys’ heads, because Dan quickly said, “FIRST INITIATION TEST! Every last stinkin’ one of you’s has to eat and swallow one of these cattails, or you ain’t worthy to be a Beta!” Almost hypnotically, every guy plucked a cattail from the mysterious pond. After everyone had gulped theirs down, a high pitched cackle came from the house. Immediately after that, the world started to shrink around the boys. The air felt much hotter, their tongues felt rougher in their mouth, and when they let out a yell: “MEOW!” Baffled with what just happened, they started crying to the front door of the house, hoping that whatever weird, mysterious person who planted the magical garden would have a heart to help them.

“If it isn’t my new little baby kitties! Come in and play with the others my pretties!” cackled the crazy gray haired witch, with her black cat in arm. Her face had a look of insanity on it, and her ratty clothes were matted with cat hair in every color. The Beta boys shrieked a cat-like noise and ran towards the exit. “You sillies, you can’t run from Mama! Her magic vines will keep you in for sure!” laughed the witch. Sure enough, Rob tried to bite away the vines, but they proved to be tough as steel. Not sure where to go or what to do, the boys reluctantly went into the house to try to find a way out of there. It was nearing nighttime anyway, and a cold rush of wind whooshed around the garden.

After fighting the crazy, old witch from having her “tuck them in to sleep”, the boys were in a tiny corner of the house. Clueless and scared of where to go next, they noticed they had company. Six fluffy white cats sat in the same corner, with wide eyes and a skittish manner. Tom knew that if they wanted to get out, they couldn’t keep still. He slid and snuck to where the old witch was sleeping, and noticed the black cat she had before in her own separate bed. Tom nudged the creepy looking cat. She immediately sat up and twitched her ears around. Her yellow eyes settled on Tom, and she began to speak. “You stupid humans are so annoying! Why are you bothering me?” said the black cat, Shadow. Tom swallowed his panicky fear and said, “Tell me how we get out of here, cat! We are not staying here forever!” “Hmm, well I am tired of competing for attention with all of you, and you all don’t even seem to want it. All right. To defeat my master and run free, you must bring me three things. First, the daisies just outside the gate. Second, the tiger lilies on the house. Lastly, bring me a single petal from the last rose in the bush. Don’t let your teeth sink into the petals of these flowers, or you’ll screw everything up. Meet me back in here with the flowers at dinnertime, tomorrow. Now go figure it all out.” Shadow curled back up into a ball and started purring softly.
Tom scrammed out back to where the Betas were and told them the news. Without hesitation, they went outside to the vine-covered fence. All of the cats were clueless about how to retrieve the daisies when they were on the opposite side of the fence, but Tom was cunning. He dug a little hole near the edge of the fence, and noticed a thick daisy root peeking out. Delicately, they pulled the daisy through the soft ground and onto their side. Tom ordered Carl to go keep it safe inside the house. Moving on, the cats eyed the tiger lily-dotted vines around the roof of the house. Thinking of a plan to get one down without touching the petals, Tom treaded around the house until he tripped over a flowerless vine connected to the house. Since the flowers were only on the roof, Tom told muscular Rob to sink his claws up the vine to climb all the way to the roof. Rob pierced a section of vine that held a single tiger lily, and then climbed back down, and into the house. The final flower that was needed was in the back of the house in the thorn infested rose bush. Tom paced back and forth, as he eyed the single rose in the center of its sharp surroundings. He spotted a dismembered branch on the ground that held a sappy pinecone. He carefully attached a sap covered piece of the pinecone to another branch, and held it up towards the rose. It caught on to a single petal and tore it from the rest of the flower. Tom purred, and then ran in the house.
They stayed huddled in the corner, hidden from the creepy old witch, until they smelled dinner cooking. They sent Tom into the room where Shadow was curled up. He presented the flower pieces he was challenged to bring. Shadow looked pleased. “Alright, I will drop the daisy and the rose petal in her soup. The daisy stops her magic power for exactly 5 minutes and the rose will shrink her down to the size of a teensy ant for the same amount of time. Escape the gates, and each eat a tiger lily petal when you are back at your home. No questions, let me do my work now.” Tom dragged the tiger lily back to the room with his Betas, and waited with anxiety. As soon as they heard the witch’s hideous loud screech, they ran to the kitchen. Her body began to wilt, shrivel and turn brown, like a dead plant. Her scream became higher and higher as her body shrunk to a miserable size. Tom let out a powerful “MEOW!” as they all busted out of the house and gnawed their way through the gate. The white cats followed as well. They never looked back once until they got to the fraternity house. Panting for breath, each cat nibbled at a petal. In an instant, they all were fur-free and tailless.
Looking around in amazement, they all swore never to go back to the Vanishing Villa again. From that day forward, Tom was known as Brother Beta TomCat, and started dating one of the entrapped fluffy white cats, Tabitha, and lived happily ever after!

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